flu epidemicThe word epidemic is not used lightly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but that is exactly the word being used to describe flu season 2012-2013. According to reports from the CDC, more than 7% of all deaths in the United States the week of January 4th, 2013 were attributed to cases of the flu and pneumonia.

The United States is broken into 10 regions. Nine of the 10 regions have reported increased flu activity compared to last year’s reports. The only region safe from the flu appears to be California and the southwest U.S.

How Do You Know You Have the Flu?

Flu symptoms are similar to those some people experience with the common cold and other infections. Common symptoms include body aches and pain, fever, fatigue and cough, as well as the following:

  • Fever in excess of 100-degrees
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Body aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Chills, may or may not be associated with fever
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

Not all patients will present with all listed symptoms. Some people suffer from fever and fatigue while others have no fever, but do have vomiting and diarrhea.

The U.S. government flu website also suggests seeking emergency medical attention if symptoms increase in severity or include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Blue or purple lip discoloration
  • Sudden or extreme dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Symptoms that appear to go away, but return with fever and/or worsening cough

Safe Ways to Prevent Contracting the Flu
The first line of defense against the flu is vaccination. This year’s vaccination is about 60% effective, which means you still have a chance of contracting the flu if you are vaccinated, but symptoms may be less severe after vaccination.

Experts also suggest washing hands often, using hand sanitizer, not sharing food and drink, and staying out of public areas where the flu virus could be spread. For instance, taking your child in for a well visit when the office is packed with sick children may not be the best idea. Other safe means of preventing the flu include:

  • Maintain a healthy diet and exercise.
  • Regular sleep.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes after coming in contact with other people.

What Does Having the Flu Mean for Pregnant Women?
Contracting the flu while pregnant can be dangerous. If you feel you have the flu, contact your obstetrician immediately for an appointment. The influenza virus has been shown to increase risk of premature labor and preterm birth. Studies have also shown a possible connection between fever during pregnancy and birth defects and autism.